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Indigenous Healing From the Himalayas

By: Carina Chatlani
Posted: January 28, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
shirodhara at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai

Spa therapies such as ayurveda and shirodhara, performed here at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, have their origins rooted in the mountainous Himalayan region.

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The signature therapy of the Oberoi Spa at Wildflower Hall, called Journey to Tibet, is a warm herbal poultice massage combined with energy balancing and healing sounds. It begins with a guided inhalation, or pranayama, which incorporates meditative aromas. Then, the singing bowls made with seven metals are placed on the body’s chakras, and the vibrations and therapeutic sounds from the mallet being gently tapped on the bowls are said to cleanse and enhance the chakras. Steeped in centuries of the indigenous herbology, the lemongrass and camphor aroma-filled poultices contain a fusion of Himalayan meditative herbs. Indian senna, wild asparagus, neem and sacred tulsi are all included and applied to the entire body to deliver detoxifying benefits.

The Four Seasons Hotel nestled in the bustling kaleidoscope of Mumbai also boasts symbolic gestures of the intertwined facets of tradition and nature. For example, its ayurvedic, handcrafted massage table made from a single piece of neem tree is considered to have healing properties. And integrated into the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel’s offerings is the signature shirodhara—“shiro” meaning head and “dharardquo; meaning flow—treatment, in which two therapists simultaneously perform a full-body massage for 90 minutes while warm, herb-infused ayurvedic oil is gently and steadily poured over the forehead in a continuous stream. This service aims to instill a sense of deep relaxation and inner peace.

Himalayan odyssey

A short, three-hour flight to the southern Himalayas leads to Nepal, a landlocked kingdom renowned for its front-row view of Mount Everest. Home to more than 3,500 species of indigenous herbs and inspired by its long history of Tibetan Buddhism, Nepal represents the epitome of ancient and long-lasting beauty secrets.

Approximately a 10-minute drive from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, the Hyatt Regency’s Club Oasis Spa offers a Singing Bowl Meditation featuring Tibetan techniques while overlooking the Boudhanath Stupa, a holy Tibetan Buddhist shrine.

And situated at an altitude of 2,700 feet above sea level and 125 miles west of Kathmandu Valley, The Shangri-la Hotel in Pokhara is a symbol of what can be translated from rudimentary therapies to the spa in its original form. The enchanting city, framed by several beautiful lakes and a stunning panoramic view of Himalayan peaks, was part of a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. Mule trains can still be seen bringing merchandise to trade from remote regions of the Himalayas.